New York City Department of Education Hunger Heroes

Since the start of the pandemic, staff members of the Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) at the New York City Department of Education have worked tirelessly to provide nutritious meals to students and community members across the city. From March 2020 to May 2021, these staff members have served over 100 million meals to New Yorkers across the five boroughs. To celebrate the incredible work of these staff members, we are honored to highlight 32 members of the OFNS team – one from each district – who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to feed kids and community members. Read more about these Hunger Heroes below!

Bernadette or “Bernie”, as her colleagues call her, has been a solid rock for her team to depend on during the past year and a half. A District 1 Field Office Manager, she is always at work early, pleasant and approachable, as well as ready to support managers and staff with any questions or staffing issues that arise. Bernie is a great listener and everyone in District 1 knows that they can call her about anything and expect that she will help. Although Bernie is not directly involved in serving meals to kids, she definitely leaves her mark on the excellent quality of District 1’s nutrition services through her positive influence on her colleagues.

Darnell, Senior School Lunch Aide and Cook in Charge at Beacon High School in District 2, has not only been feeding students during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the greater community. Every day, he first works his regular schedule to feed students and then also works the evening shift to also feed community members – handing out more than 700 meals in just two hours! Darnell is warm and welcoming and has gotten to know the regular guests that come each evening for meals. He is the heart of the kitchen and a great role model for the other staff members.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Babana Medrano, School Lunch Helper in District 3, has been on the front lines tirelessly feeding students and members of her community. She has worked at multiple school sites throughout many challenging conditions and never once complained nor missed a day of work. Babana continues to demonstrate dedication and commitment to her work and even with all the adversity throughout the year, she has remained a constant for her team. She consistently shows up to work with a huge smile, working hard to ensure food insecure families are provided with a safe, healthy and delicious meal daily.

Wanda Rodriguez, School Lunch Helper in District 4, continues to do whatever it takes to provide healthy, tasty and nutritious meals to kids. She goes the extra mile to ensure that meals are prepared and served on time to school community and cares deeply about the students and their nutrition.

Rosa Davis, School Lunch Aide and Cook in District 5, always puts the needs of her students first. She is an extremely hard working employee who always goes above and beyond!

Samuel Sheps, Cook in Charge in District 6, is not only a wonderful cook who enjoys sharing his culinary creations – he is also a hard worker who is very dependable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has helped provide thousands of meals to families in need. Samuel is a true leader and someone who inspires others. His tireless work ethic is truly unique.

Michelle Reynoso, School Lunch Helper and Acting Cook in District 7, has gone above and beyond to serve students and the community throughout the pandemic. She always has a positive attitude, and does everything she can to keep her staff motivated and safe by following all COVID-19 procedures and protocol.

Jorge Osorio, School Food Service Manager in District 8, has overseen the production and service of thousands of meals in four separate sites (PS 119, PS 14, PS 60/133 & MS 302). He not only leads his team in feeding students, but he also leads two Adult Feeder sites and oversees the preparation and delivery of meals to District 8’s medically fragile students. Jorge has worked tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic, and in addition to covering his own schools, he is constantly called upon to cover other sites due to pandemic-related staffing shortages. Additionally, Jorge recently helped start the first Halal meal service program in District 8 at PS 119. He has been a great leader to his staff and an asset to the entire District 8 community.

Octavio Cortorreal, Senior School Lunch Aide and Cook in District 9, goes above and beyond to ensure that students are fed a safe and healthy meal at all times! He is extremely dedicated, organized, takes great pride in his work and is passionate about his food presentation.

Odalis Rodriguez, Senior School Lunch Helper in District 10, has been a constant, compassionate and cheery champion for the communities of Norwood and Kingsbridge throughout the pandemic. Punctual and polite; his was the first face to greet the community at PS 56’s Meal Hub last spring and the last face to wave good night at MS 368’s Meal Hub this fall. His commitment to the Office of Food and Nutrition Services program and to both students and staff is unrivaled – Odalis is always eager and ready for work!

Latisha Johnson, Senior School Lunch Helper and Field Office Worker, is one of the hardest working employees in District 11. She goes above and beyond to make the 55+ school buildings, satellites, managers and 350+ school lunch employees in the district move like clockwork. As an office employee and currently acting office manager, Latisha sees firsthand the extensive work it takes to run food service at one of the largest districts in the Bronx. She works tirelessly to provide every person that calls the office with her personal number and the best customer service. When short staffed, she’s even put on a uniform to help make and serve meals to students. While at times Latisha can be an unseen Hero whose work can go unnoticed, the well-oiled machine of District 11 is a testament to her professionalism, dedication and tireless effort.

Michelle Madera, School Lunch Aide in District 12, has consistently gone above and beyond during the pandemic. When kitchen staff were out due to self-quarantining, she was always available and willing to help no matter the time of day. Coming from a high school with a scratch cooking program, she has shown her ability to adapt to any situation. Michelle has demonstrated her strength, courage, and sincerity in the face of all that District 12 has faced this past year. Without a doubt, the district and its students can always rely on Michelle.

Pam Wilson is a staple at PS 282 in District 13! Always there bright and early with a smile on her face ready to feed students, she ensures that they have a healthy meal every day.

Angelina Mazza, Senior School Lunch Helper and Assistant Cook at PS 132 in District 14, is extremely dedicated to her job and her school community. Angelina’s kindness and care for this community is contagious – you can notice it as soon as you walk into school! She did not miss one day of work during the pandemic, and she continues to show her extraordinary customer service skills through every task that comes her way – from working in other schools to putting away deliveries when the school is short staffed. Everywhere she goes, she gives her best for the students!

Angel Vega, Cook in District 15, takes great pride in his work and brings his sunny disposition and positive attitude to everything he does. He always serves his high school students with a smile, and it is this level of customer service that makes him so special. He offers students his full attention while striking conversation with them and always says hello when they approach the serving line. Although he may get a weird look at first, after a day or two, the same students will greet him by name as he asks them how they’re doing and encourages them to try something new. If they respond with “I don’t like it” he says “Pero, try”. Most times the students will try the item and like it… all because of Angel!

Dollie German, School Lunch Aide and Cook at PS 308 in District 16, is proactive, dependable, and hardworking. Driven by her dedication and love for the community she serves, she is a critical part of the PS 308 OFNS team. The team is so appreciative that Dollie can think quickly on her feet. Her adaptability means she is able to shift priorities and do whatever it takes to address major challenges that arise. When a situation gets stressful, Dollie’s quiet strength goes above and beyond to ensure that the team is able to complete what they need to and feed their students!

Margie Porter, School Lunch Helper in District 17, has dedicated more than 23 years of service to the Office of Food and Nutrition Services. Her reliability, kindness and positive energy has kept her team going during the entire COVID-19 pandemic, during which Margie has been going from site to site to ensure that needs are met for students.

Dwight Ewart, Senior School Lunch Aide and Cook in District 18, is always extra early to work and the last one to leave. Dwight goes above and beyond to provide excellent customer service and healthy meals for students and the community. Across the district, students and community members can’t get enough of his delicious and delightful meals!

Eleanor McDaniel, better known to her colleagues and community as Kim, is a Senior School Lunch Helper at IS 218 in District 19. Every evening, Kim works the Adult Community Feeding Program at the NYCHA complex across from the school, where she has created strong relationships with community members. She brings her care for the community to everything she does – especially her food presentation! This friendship and care goes both ways – if Kim is ever absent from community feeding, members will ask about her to make sure that she is well.

Karima Kamri, Cook in District 20, has stepped up to lead the charge at one of the highest feeder sites in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has made a tremendous impact for remote learners and community members while covering as head cook due to her amazing leadership and organizational skills.

Thu Trang Pham, School Lunch Helper in District 21, is dedicated, giving and full of heart. She takes great pride in the service she provides to students and their families and encourages others to do the same. Her personality is infectious –  she always sees the best in others and makes sure that she is available whenever assistance is needed, especially during the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lena Hawk, Cook in Charge and Senior Lunch Helper at PS 277 in District 22, has been a dedicated OFNS employee for 20 years. She goes above and beyond in her responsibilities every day to ensure that she is doing whatever she can to assist in her school as well as in the district at large. She has not taken a day off since the start of the pandemic and shows up to work with a bright smile on her face, always eager to help and support the administration and the students at PS 277. Lena has made a huge difference providing meals to families in need during these difficult times!

Yonette Welcome, Senior School Lunch Aide and Cook-in-Charge in District 23’s largest feeder school, not only supervises efforts to provide more than 2,000 meals to students in her school building daily, but also services a shelter and community members. Yonette loves serving students and the community and brings an impeccable level of professionalism and skill to everything she does, ensuring that all OFNS policies and procedures are adhered to and that everything runs smoothly.

Diane Bellomo, Senior School Lunch Helper at PS 13 in District 24, won’t let anything get in the way of serving students! Recently, her team was extremely grateful that Diane stepped up as Cook in Charge when both Cooks were out during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that meal service operations for students and community members would not be interrupted.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandra Loccisano, Office Manager in District 25, has worked nonstop to make sure that meal services function smoothly. As late as 10 pm or as early as 5am, Sandra is available –  making calls to employees, rerouting or canceling trucking or rerouting staff, and assisting with completing required reports. She continues to take on extra responsibilities with grace and kindness and shows up every day.

Nicole Taffe, School Food Service Manager in District 26, is the type of manager that goes above and beyond to make sure students have a safe and nutritious meal. She supports her staff and assists whenever needed, offering help to fellow managers with their own meal programs and sharing best practices. Nicole is pleasure to work with and well liked by her fellow school staff.

Luis Valle, Senior School Lunch Helper in District 27, works tirelessly to ensure meals are ready for students and the general public. He brings his dedication, hardworking attitude and pleasantness to work every day and contributes so much to the district’s feeding program.

Julia Napa, School Lunch Assistant and Office Manager in District 28, has been the backbone of the district for many years and especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when she coordinated over 300 staff members on a daily basis to ensure that all students received nutritious meals. Her dedication and work ethic  speaks volumes as to how valuable she is to District 28’s community!

Donovan Pellington, School Lunch Aide and Assistant Cook, is one of the most hard working employees in District 29. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has taken on the role of cook even though he was just one month into his position. Donovan is a huge asset to his team and the Office of Food and Nutrition Services – he is dependable and will do anything he can to make sure he’s there for the students and the community feeding program. Donovan doesn’t hesitate to perform whatever task is needed and is a team player who motivates his staff to be the best they can be!

Napoleon Rodrigues, Senior School Lunch Aide and Cook at William Cullen Bryant High School in District 30, has been with the Office of Food and Nutrition Services for more than 15 years! As a member of the OFNS team at Bryant HS since 2014, Napoleon has always shown his dedication to the school and its students, even more so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been supporting his kitchen team during its busy daily operations, overseeing the meal preparation and service of approximately 900+ meals daily to students of Bryant HS, the surrounding community as well as two non-public school satellite sites. Way to go, Napoleon!

Jackie Trimarco, Assistant Cook at PS 45 in District 31, is a true hero. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackie has put her heart and soul into feeding the students and the community. Each day she comes to work and gives her all for students and the district community, despite the circumstances. She is the heart of PS 45’s kitchen, where she makes sure that each meal is prepared with love and care. She is a hard worker and a true leader, who has taken on all the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at her with grace and respect.

Swedley Ackie, Senior School Lunch Helper in District 32, has been with the Office of Food and Nutrition Services for over 13 years! He is reliable and dependable, very pleasant with students and the district community and excellent with staff. Swedley goes the extra mile with an ever-present positive attitude and has been working tirelessly throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that students and community members in District 32 receive the nutritious meals they need.